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Nurses Reflect On COVID-19 Crisis: 'The Public Has No Clue What We're Seeing Everyday'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- They are years apart when it comes to time on the job, but they're both fighting the same battle.

Two nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic are sharing their stories with CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot in honor of National Nurses Day.

Stroger Hospital at Cook County Health critical care nurse Peter Sesi talked about his day in a video blog.

"I just finished working a 16 hour shift. I came in at 7 a.m. and it's approximately 11 p.m. now," Sesi said. "The day started off pretty rough. Came in running. Ran into patient's code."

Sesi began his career 12 years ago, as an ER nurse. Now he's working in the critical care unit caring for COVID-19 patients.

"The public doesn't know what we're going through. The public has no clue, what we're seeing everyday," Sesi said. He added that he's often the only person by someone's side when they die from the virus.

"There's someone that loves this person and they have friends and they had a future," Sesi said. "And like now, I'm sitting here with them. It breaks my heart because I literally sit back and think of myself in that position."

When asked how many times he had to be with someone during their last moments and with their last breath, he said many.

"A lot more than what we would want to say. Even just this morning."

Nurse Brittany Beyer has been a nurse at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital for two years. She works in the COVID-19 medical unit. She spoke from the hospital zen room where therapists are available for hospital staff. What's been the hardest part?

"All the changes and the unknown," Beyer said.

Beyer acknowledged that amid the unknowns are moments of celebration. Like a 30-year-old patient released Tuesday, after spending 44 days in the hospital battling COVID-19.

"We clap them out and we kind of walk behind them, as they clap out," Beyer said. "He got to be reunited with his family and just seeing that reconnect makes me love my job, even more."

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